Praising Sachin on conducting himself with remarkable dignity, Rohit Brijnath, the eminent observer of sporting heroes, said greatness in sport is common but Sachin was extraordinary as he wore greatness lightly, and legend discreetly.
Sachin, born with exceptional gifts, became an exceptional player and a cricketing legend. He was also blessed with other non-cricket skills that made him special, a one off. I recall the first time I went on tour with the Indian team in 1992 (to Zimbabwe and South Africa) when Sachin was very young but even then, in a team dominated by Azharuddin, Kapil and Shastri, all eyes were focussed on him.
Celebrity sat easily on him, Sachin never appeared burdened or stressed by attention. Instead he handled it in a natural, effortless manner, with poise and calm assurance. If nothing fazed him at the crease, nothing breached his composure away from it. Even when very young he was always in control, sure of himself; he knew his mind, was clear headed and unshakeable, in a nice manner. Comfortable with his special status, he accepted the honour with grace, did not wear it on his chest like a flash commercial logo.
Over the years (during subsequent tours to South Africa, England and Pakistan) a common thread about Sachin's demeanour was his amazing humility, the quiet dignity with which he conducted himself, the unobtrusive manner in which he navigated the high attention world of famous celebrities.
Sachin Tendulkar does not throw his weight around, demands no favours, does not ask for extra match passes, expects no special treatment. In the team context he is no different from others who follow rules.
Two incidents, from England, show he treats himself like a foot soldier instead of seeking the privileges of a Field Marshall. The team was invited to a Wisden award presentation, the function held at Wembley, a longish drive away from St James Court Hotel near Buckingham Palace where the team was staying. Sachin's wife travelled to the venue with some friends who, apparently, left early so, on the way back, she required a lift to the hotel.
Sachin sought out the team management to ask permission for his wife to come on the team bus! Which he need not have done, because one: according to the Indian team tradition immediate family is allowed on the bus on such occasions. Two: Sachin Tendulkar does not have to ask for permission because who would, possibly, object.
That he actually did speaks a lot about showing courtesy and respect to team management and the importance of following protocol.
Another incident, on the same tour, confirmed Sachin put team ahead of self. Indian players were invited to a special show of Bombay Dreams, the organisers reserved the best seats for them and announced this to the media. Half an hour before the event, Sachin called to say he'd like to be excused from attending the show as something urgent had cropped up. When told that the team had confirmed their participation and his sudden pullout would cause disappointment, and embarrassment, Sachin promptly changed his mind, showed up on time, happily posed for pictures with the performers -- and discreetly left, as arranged, once the lights dimmed for the show to start.
Sachin is a star with no starry tantrums, best seen in the calm manner in which he celebrates success, the way he looks up to the skies after reaching a milestone as if to thank a superior power that controls human destiny. Contrast this with the bizarre celebration of Virat Kohli who chooses to be abusive and aggressive after reaching a hundred!
Note: The author's views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of NDTV.